Harvesting goes on


Most of these tomatoes went in another batch of ratatouille, destined for the freezer, with courgettes, peppers and onions picked from the garden at the same time.

We’re eating a lot of green peppers of different varieties, the biggest and best coming from plants of an unidentified Spanish variety grown from seed given to us by our neighbours in the next garden last summer.  Some of the green peppers are now starting to turn red, especially the paprika peppers (in French conveniently there are two words, poivron meaning the vegetable and piment meaning the spicy paprika or chilli peppers).  We grow two varieties of the latter: a chorizo pepper originally given to us by a friend who lives in Navarra from which we’ve saved seed for the last few years, spicy rather than hot; and piment d’Espelette, a paprika pepper from the village of Espelette in the French Basque country which is slightly hotter but still nothing like chilli.  Since we’ve saved seeds for a couple of years from these peppers they probably shouldn’t be called Espelette as the peppers from that village and surrounding area have been awarded l’appellation d’origine contrôlée and like wine must come from a particular area.  Even the extra plants that we put in pots on the balconies and window sills have peppers that are turning red now and I shall soon be drying strings of these to save for winter.


One of our piments d’Espelette turning red on the kitchen window sill (above) and (below) chorizo peppers on an upstairs balcony.


And more aubergines…..


We put most of the aubergines we’d picked into the ratatouille, but left out a few so that Lo Jardinièr could make one of his specialities – aubergine fritters with local garrigue honey, his version of a dish we ate in a very good restaurant in Córdoba a few years ago.  To make the batter he uses half ordinary baking flour and half chickpea flour, a little salt and olive oil and enough water to mix, then dips the aubergine slices in the batter and fries them in olive oil.  When they are on the serving dish he pours honey over them all (heated to thin it if it has solidified) – and they are absolutely delicious!


The grapes are ripening


The Languedoc has been described as the biggest vineyard in the world, and in this vineyard the grapes are beginning to ripen ready to make this year’s red wine.  I spotted these on the way back from Roquessels after buying wine at our favourite domain d’Estève.  These red grapes won’t be picked until September, so they still have plenty of time to develop and ripen.  The white grapes will be picked around the middle of August, often at night as they need to be kept cool until they are pressed.

Preserving aubergines

Yes, aubergines again!  We’ve found that one good way to preserve a glut of aubergines is to pickle them.  We then eat the pickle during the winter as an accompaniment to grilled meats, as a vegetable rather than a condiment.  We had a kilo and a half of aubergines as well as the couple we wanted to eat today, so I made the first four large jars of pickle.


I roughly chopped the aubergines, about a kilo of tomatoes and a large sweet onion (which weighed about 700 grams) and combined them all in a pan with a soup spoon of salt, two teaspoons of paprika,  a few bay leaves, 500 ml of red wine vinegar and 500 grams of sugar.


I brought the mixture to the boil and simmered for an hour and a quarter covered followed by 15 minutes uncovered.


While it was still hot I poured it into large sterilised jars and now it’s ready to be kept in the store cupboard for winter while we enjoy the fresh aubergines that we’re picking daily.


The recipe blog

When I moved this blog to WordPress a couple of months ago I also moved my recipe blog because I had separated the two a few years ago.   With the new view on my blogs that the change has given me the separation now seems rather artificial and arbitrary because so much of what I have to say about the garden is connected with what I want to say about food and the recipes I write.  So, I’m thinking of combining recipes, food and gardening on this blog from now on, although the Food from the Mediterranean blog will remain as a source of reference for previously posted recipes and maybe the occasional new one.  I’d like to know what you think about this.

Vegetable paella

My first post for nearly a week because our daughter has been staying with us and we’ve been too busy having fun.  She eats fish but not meat and yesterday, since we needed a quiet day after a couple of long days and late nights out, we made paella in the garden using the vegetables that are growing there now.  Paella always tastes best, I think, when it’s made outdoors on a wood or charcoal fire and this is what we try to do, weather permitting, throughout the year.  As an omnivore, I also think it tastes best with meat (chicken, pork, rabbit) in it, but in this one the aubergine really did give it a ‘meaty’ flavour and it was very good.


We picked these vegetables, including one of our first red peppers and a couple that were supposed to be red but seem to have turned out to be orange, and a courgette that had grown rather large but was still tender and a sweet onion that isn’t in this picture.  Straight from the plants and into the pan:


We sautéed the vegetables in olive oil, the red and orange peppers in strips and the others in chunks, put the pepper strips to one side for later, added chopped garlic, a cheating paella spice mix that includes saffron and paprika, some sprigs of rosemary, rice, the juice of a lemon, a glass of white wine, salt and water, and simmered until the rice was cooked.  Then we added some mussels that we’d cooked earlier and the strips of pepper, covered the pan and left it to rest for 10 minutes or so.  And then it was ready to eat at a table in the shade.


We’ve picked the first few Turkish pink tomatoes, grown from seed sent to me by beste.  They tasted lovely in a simple salad with salt, garlic and olive oil.  I think you can see the difference in colour between them (the two on the right) and the red Languedocian tomatoes here – to the eye they were much more obviously pink than they look here.


Aubergines again

I think I’ll have to rename this blog ‘Olives and aubergines’ as we have so many this year.  It’s because we’ve put too many plants into the garden, but I’m not complaining as I love aubergines and it’s nice to have plenty to give away to friends who’ve given us vegetables.  Today we picked another 10, but we’ve given most of them away.  I was glad of a chance to make one of my favourite aubergine dishes that I discovered in Murcia in southern Spain.  We went to a restaurant and ordered a selection of tapas, one of which was called morcilla de verano (summer morcilla).  I was expecting it to be a meat dish and, when all the dishes had arrived, was surprised not to see any morcilla (blood sausage), but then realised that the aubergine dish was made with pine nuts, like morcilla, and it must be made when the weather is too hot to risk hanging blood sausage to dry.  It was a surprise, but a delicious surprise.  This is my version:


I used 4 small aubergines, a large sweet onion, 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped, a bunch of fresh mint, chopped, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of paprika, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, salt and plenty of olive oil.  Chop the aubergines and onion roughly into small chunks and put in a large pan with a lot of olive oil – aubergines soak up oil, so you just have to see how much it needs to keep the vegetables from getting dry in the pan.


Once the aubergine and onion pieces are cooking and softening in the oil, add the other ingredients and continue to simmer in the oil for about three-quarters of an hour.  They should almost be melting into each other.


Allow to cool, and serve – as for so many delicious dishes – with crusty rustic bread, and with other tapas or salad dishes.


I often use oregano instead of mint in this dish, but today I had plenty of mint but had forgotten to pick oregano – both are good.

And, just for a change from aubergines…..


This evening I made carpaccio  de tomates – slicing a large coeur de boeuf tomato very thinly, sprinkling chopped garlic, basil leaves, salt and pepper over the slices and then adding olive oil.



We now have huge quantities in the garden of everything we need to make ratatouille, or chichoumeille as it’s called in the Languedoc, or samfaïna in Catalan….and there are probably as many names for this combination of Mediterranean vegetables as there are languages and dialects around the region.

There are differences of opinion among cookery writers as to how this quite simple dish should be prepared.  We think it’s best if the roughly chopped pieces of each of the different vegetables – onion, green pepper, courgette, aubergine, but not tomato – are sautéed separately in olive oil before they are all combined with the peeled and chopped tomatoes, some garlic, herbs, salt and pepper, and then the whole mixture is simmered for about three-quarters of an hour.  Once it’s made it can be kept in the fridge for a few days to be reheated or served cold, and the flavour improves with keeping.  We’ll freeze some of ours, but you can bottle it too, putting it in jars at the stage when you mix the vegetables and then heating them in a steriliser.  I haven’t tried this last method yet so I’m  not sure about timing.  I’ll have to ask friends and neighbours who do this.

Another way with aubergines

I love aubergines and we grow a lot of them.  This year even more than usual because a neighbour gave us some extra plants when we had already bought the grafted ones we usually grow and which are so productive.  Today I picked nine of them and made parmigiana de melanzane, an old favourite of mine for which there are plenty of recipes so I won’t give one here.  I’ll just say that the main ingredients are layers of aubergine slices, onions, garlic and tomatoes, topped with parmesan cheese and baked in the oven.  I like having the chance to make extra dishes which can be stored in the freezer for when we’re too busy to cook.


This was last night’s way with aubergine – one of my versions of baba ganoush, originally a Lebanese dish, a purée of roast aubergine mixed with spices.  I put two whole aubergines in the oven and baked them until they were soft, then peeled them and puréed the flesh with two large cloves of garlic, some ground cumin, some ground paprika, salt, a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt and some lemon juice to taste.  To serve it, I garnished it with some toasted whole cumin seeds.  It goes well with crusty bread and raw vegetables as a first course, here with cucumber and cherry tomatoes straight from the garden.

I meant to upload this as part of yesterday’s post, but as I was writing it I could hear a thunderstorm approaching and wanted to turn everything off before it arrived.  We had two tremendous storms for an hour before midnight and then another hour at around 6 this morning, with heavy rain, flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder with hardly a break between them.  It was needed to clear the air and has done the garden a lot of good.  Luckily there was no damage to our plants, just one pepper plant that had fallen over but not broken and needed re-tying.

Tomatoes à la provençale

When I walked around the village this morning every narrow street seemed to smell of tomatoes, thyme, olive oil and garlic, the distinctive scent of summer in the Midi and all around the Mediterranean.  I didn’t want to be left out of this treat, so as soon as I got home I put some of our tomatoes and aubergines in the oven.  I sliced the tops off the tomatoes and halved some small aubergines lengthwise.  I removed the hard ‘core’ of the tomatoes (some varieties don’t have this, but the Languedocian ones do) and made slits in the flesh of the aubergines.  Then I added chopped garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and poured olive oil over them all in an oven-proof dish.  After 45 minutes our kitchen smelled like the rest of the village and the vegetables made a delicious lunch, with some left over for later.


A weekend harvest



For the first time this year, this morning we picked many more tomatoes and aubergines than we can eat in one meal.  The grafted aubergines (plants grafted onto tomato roots, which we buy in a garden centre because of their amazingly high productivity) are beginning to produce aubergines in large numbers while the ordinary plants each still have ‘one to pick, one to pick in a couple of days’ time and a few more developing’.  I love aubergines, so I don’t mind!


The Languedocian tomatoes, especially, have many fruits which will be ripe in a few days’ time and we’ll soon have to start bottling them for the winter.  At the moment we’re keeping up with them, just, in gazpacho and salads, as well as my favourite breakfast – chopped tomato, salt and olive oil on fresh bread.


The olives on both our trees are growing – the Lucques, above, and those on the other tree of uncertain variety, which has a much bigger crop:


During the winter we thought about moving this second tree because it’s taking up a lot of space in one of our vegetable beds, but decided not to because it cropped so well last year.  And I’m glad we left it where it is.  Now we just have to hope we can keep the olive fly away from our trees…..

This rather ragged butterfly landed next to me this morning – it’s difficult to identify it because of its poor, faded state, but it still seemed OK and it flew off after posing for a few shots.


Some friends have been harvesting their potatoes and have given us several kilos of slightly damaged but mostly perfect ones that won’t keep for storage, so we’ve been trying to use them.  I’ve made Chica Andaluza’s sort of saag aloo, which we’ll eat for supper tonight, because we have a glut of chard in the garden too, and we’ve also made a simple version of Patatas a lo Pobre, by cooking them with onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil – always delicious!


Picking peppers

I’m very pleased with the Kandil dolma peppers I picked this morning and even more so with the 60 or so still growing on our 12 plants.  This is quite a special variety with a distinctive spicy flavour which reminds me of peppers I ate as a child in Turkey.  A couple of years ago I ordered some seeds from Kokopelli, the seed-saving organisation, but only one plant germinated.  Luckily, it grew and produced peppers from which I saved the seeds and this year we have a dozen or so plants all doing very well in the garden.


I picked 6 small peppers this morning, partly because I can’t wait to try them again and partly to help the others grow.  Here they are with a couple of aubergines and a few Languedocian tomatoes.

I stuffed the peppers with rice, tomato, sweet onion and oregano, and we’ll eat them cold with a little lemon juice in the garden this evening.  The recipe is on my Mediterranean food blog.


The tomato was simply to use up extra stuffing and fill up space in the dish.

Yes, they’re really ripening!

The tomato I thought was turning colour the other day and a few others are definitely turning red now – I think we’ll be picking these in a couple of days, just after our neighbour who proudly showed us one he’d picked this morning, but we’re not competitive (really)!


All our ripening tomatoes are on the Languedocian plants, a variety which seem to do very well here in the Languedoc, not surprisingly.

And the rest of today’s harvest:


Three cucumbers, one aubergine, two Trébons sweet onions, one large Lézignan sweet onion and some herbs to go with them all.  We also picked a couple of lettuces and one of them, with one of the cucumbers and a couple of goats’ cheeses from Mas Rolland, dressed with olive oil milled in the village, made a very nice lunch for a hot day.